FIJI GOLD, COPPER MINE TO START OPERATIONS IN 4 YEARS

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Namosi Joint Venture mine to generate $544 million annually

By Avinesh Gopal SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 5, 2011) – In Fiji, a billion-dollar mine is expected to start operating and producing gold and copper in the Namosi highlands within four years.

The Namosi Joint Venture mine is expected to generate an annual income of FJ$1 billion [US$544.4 million] at the current world market price of gold and copper.

Permanent secretary for Lands and Mineral Resources Filimone Kau said, "Hopefully, the company should be able to get its mining lease by June next year.

"The company will be ready to invest in building infrastructure and mine developments costing about FJ$1 billion. We are looking at Namosi and also continuing work on a feasibility study, the viability of the business, model of the mine and environmental issues."

Kau said landowners were continuing talks with the company for access to land for exploration and studies.

[PIR editor's note: Newcrest Mining Limited, the Australian-based company that forms one part of the Namosi Joint Venture was held accountable for environmental damages in 2010, and a government ruling stated that compensation would need to cover damages done to trees and crops from initial exploratory activities at Namosi. In June 2010, months after initial rulings for compensation, landowners at Namosi were preparing to present the Fijian government with a Memorandum of Understanding expressing their concerns over pollution that "had adversely affected the environment."]

"There is also the compensation agreement, but right now discussions are only limited to negotiations on exploratory work. It's both gold and copper and the land area involved for exploratory works is 72,352 hectares. There are hiccups here and there but we are trying to resolve it and the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources is playing a facilitating role to ensure all grievances are resolved. We have organized a meeting this week to look at some issues raised by the landowners and the company."

Kau said as far as the government was concerned, the ministry was the key sector ministry in discussions on the exploration and transition into the mining state.

He said lessons have been learnt from the Vatukoula mine and others in the Pacific that the management of mining needs to be coordinated with a broader participation of the government.

[PIR editor's note: Early projections for the profits from Namosi's gold and copper production were near US$1.2 billion for the Fijian economy, which has been applauded as potentially a "huge boost to [Fiji's] national economy."]

"We are setting up a government task force, which is bringing in all stakeholders to be part of the dialogue because we want to make it right as a lot is at stake.

"We want to do it properly and, hopefully, lessons from those places tell us that Namosi turns out to be a worthwhile, viable and well-thought out project.

"If all goes well, then the mine should be operating and producing by late 2014 or early 2015. As forecast by the company, it will be a FJ$1 billion return annually with regards to the gold and copper price now."

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